Texting while driving

July 2009

Concern has risen amongst car insurance experts after recent driver statistics were released stating that up to 60% of Australians have admitted to using a mobile phone whilst in control of a moving vehicle.

These statistics raise the question of whether car insurers should be considering if drivers who have previously been convicted for illegally using their mobile phone in a vehicle, should be paying higher premiums.

Director of Operations for Budget Direct car insurance James Lilley said there are three ways people can use a mobile phone while behind the wheel - speaking on the phone using a hands-free device, speaking on the phone simply using a hand held, and sending or receiving text messages.

“Of the variety of applications, texting is by far the most dangerous due to the prolonged and repeated amount of times drivers need to take their eyes off the road,” Mr Lilley said.

In 2008 it is estimated that more than 10 billion text messages were sent in Australia while driving, and this figure is predicted to reach 11.2 billion by 2011.

And while this new research is sounding alarm bells around drivers and community groups, insurance providers are well aware of the implications.

Mr Lilley predicts that changes may be implemented in the future to account for these growing statistics.

“I would suggest that being convicted of text messaging while driving could become a factor in purchasing an insurance policy.”

“Text messaging while driving is clearly a dangerous and risky habit, and thanks to research such as the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) report, it is beginning to be seen in the same light as drink driving,” Mr Lilley said.

TRL in the UK published a project report on the effects of text messaging on driving behaviour.

The research was carried out by using a driving simulator, requiring the participants to perform a number text message tasks while driving which included texting, reading a text and ignoring a text message.

The results were staggering - showing how reaction times when texting deteriorated by 35% compared to a drunk driver at 12% and driving under the influence of cannabis at 21%.

The research strongly indicates that the ability to maintain a safe road position when driving is significantly impaired.

If text messaging severely affects our driving ability then does that mean that provisions should be put into place regarding the use of GPS navigation systems or even go as far as to ban smoking while driving?

“It bewilders me as to why some drivers take their eyes off the road to send a text message,” Mr Lilley said.

“As our population continues to grow, particularly in major cities, our roads are becoming increasingly busier and a driver needs to remain fully aware of their surroundings.”

“Text messaging while driving not only puts the offending driver’s life in danger but also threatens the lives of other nearby drivers and pedestrians.”

“Our industry, the medical profession and police should be looking at how we can further encourage law makers to crack down on this reckless behavior,” he said.

About Budget Direct

Budget Direct is a cheap car insurance provider that offers competitive car insurance to drivers in Australia. Budget Direct is a wholly owned Australian insurance provider and is part of the international Budget Insurance group of companies headquartered in the British Isles. The Budget Insurance group of companies administers more than 3 million policies and $1 billion in premium. Auto & General Insurance Company Ltd underwrites Budget Direct’s policies.

Car Insurance - Cut the cost not the cover

For further information or interviews please contact Jonathan Kerr, Director, Marketing & Digital, Budget Direct (Auto & General) at 07 3377 8801 or mediaenquiries@budgetdirect.com.au

Budget Direct was established as an insurance provider in Australia in 2000.  It is part of the international BHL Group of companies headquartered in the British Isles. The group provides more than 6.8 million policies to insurance customers and administers $2 billion in premiums annually. Budget Direct offers Motor, Home & Contents, Health, Life and Travel Insurance as well as Roadside Assistance.